[17 October 2006]
Harper Lee (the band, of course) is not exactly a household name yet, but one gets the sense that it doesn’t bother the duo all that much. Keris Howard and Laura Bridge have never really been the types to shout their emotions and feelings from the rooftops, content to stick with quiet bedroom recordings and intimacy. He Holds a Flame is a five song EP that offers no surprises for those acquainted with the Harper Lee formula, but enough tunefulness to keep even the skeptics who’ve dismissed them as twee Smiths impersonators engaged. The title track is presented twice, the latter version (subtitled “Longer”) tacking a minute or so of music onto the former, and is a perfect example of why you don’t necessarily need a drummer to write a lovely little pop song—the drum machine is prominent but unobtrusive, and the focus never really comes off of Howard’s vocals and Bridge’s repeated keyboard drones. “William Blake” and “Come Rest Your Weary Head” are pretty-but-forgettable sensitive guy dirges, and “I Could Be Wrong” is so mid-tempo and straightforward as to be accurately labeled simplistic, though it’s also catchy as hell. In all, the five songs pass incredibly quickly, leaving only the hunger for more in their wake. He Holds a Flame is an EP by two people who haven’t quite mustered up enough audio for a full album, but don’t want to be forgotten—a duo determined to not disappear like the author with whom they share their name. In accomplishing this, they’ve delivered an EP that draws you in, wraps you in blankets, and serves you hot cocoa. Not bad for a little orphan EP.